BLOGGER TEMPLATES AND Twitter Backgrounds »

Saturday, January 16, 2010

Mayan number system

The Mayan number system dates back to the fourth century and was approximately 1,000 years more advanced than the Europeans of that time. This system is unique to our current decimal system, which has a base 10, in that the Mayan's used a vigesimal system, which had a base 20. This system is believed to have been used because, since the Mayan's lived in such a warm climate and there was rarely a need to wear shoes, 20 was the total number of fingers and toes, thus making the system workable. Therefore two important markers in this system are 20, which relates to the fingers and toes, and five, which relates to the number of digits on one hand or foot.

The Mayan system used a combination of two symbols. A dot (.) was used to represent the units (one through four) and a dash (-) was used to represent five. It is thought that the Mayan's may have used an abacus because of the use of their symbols and, therefore, there may be a connection between the Japanese and certain American tribes (Ortenzi, 1964). The Mayan's wrote their numbers vertically as opposed to horizontally with the lowest denomination on the bottom. Their system was set up so that the first five place values were based on the multiples of 20. They were 1 (200), 20 (201), 400 (202), 8,000 (203), and 160,000 (204). In the Arabic form we use the place values of 1, 10, 100, 1,000, and 10,000.

It has been suggested that counters may have been used, such as grain or pebbles, to represent the units and a short stick or bean pod to represent the fives. Through this system the bars and dots could be easily added together as opposed to such number systems as the Romans but, unfortunately, nothing of this form of notation has remained except the number system that relates to the Mayan calendar.

For further study: The 360 day calendar also came from the Mayan's who actually used base 18 when dealing with the calendar. Each month contained 20 days with 18 months to a year. This left five days at the end of the year which was a month in itself that was filled with danger and bad luck. In this way, the Mayans had invented the 365 day calendar which revolved around the solar system.

2010 in Mayan numeral system looks like this